If you've been at this fantasy football stuff for a few years, then you already know that league-winning players — or at least playoff-clinching players — can be found at pretty much any point in a draft. Fantasy outcomes don't depend entirely on first-round picks. In fact, some years the most essential players in our game aren't drafted at all — that was certainly the case with Damien Williams in 2018 and Jerome Harrison in 2009.
In a nutshell: Every round offers potential fantasy difference-makers. Your odds of finding such players decreases a bit as a draft unfolds, but there's hope in every round. Again, most of you know this already.
Today, our mission is to look for potential draft steals available outside the first 10 rounds in a typical Yahoo league. Let's assume a 12-team format, so we're looking for players with average draft positions greater than 120. Every player listed below has a clear chance to make a significant statistical splash, assuming good health. And yet we're leaving them alone until the back-half of drafts. Let's review ...
Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns, ADP 126.4
Pretty much everything is in place for Mayfield as he enters his third season. Cleveland improved its offensive line substantially during the offseason via both the draft and free agency, and the team's receiving corps remains loaded (Landry, Beckham, Hooper, Hunt, et al). A competent coaching staff led by Kevin Stefanski should certainly help, as will a scheme that suits Mayfield's skills and limitations. He demonstrated at the collegiate level that he's capable of elite NFL accuracy, so it's reasonable to expect significant leaps in his Y/A and completion percentage. There's a very good chance Mayfield finally meets the expectations many of us had for him in 2019.
Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams, ADP 131.3
This ADP seems a little nuts, but, hey, it's a deep position. Goff has already produced a top-eight seasonal finish (2018), he's thrown for over 4,600 yards in back-to-back years and he led the NFL in total pass attempts last season (626). We've ranked a pair of Rams wide receivers inside the position's top-24, plus Tyler Higbee is the consensus No. 5 tight end. If we're right about those things, then Goff is clearly being under-drafted.
Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions, ADP 122.5
Jones is routinely overlooked by fantasy managers, perhaps because he's become so well established in the WR2-WR3 range over the years. He scored nine touchdowns in his 13 games last season, plus he managed to remain fantasy-relevant in the Staffordless weeks, which was no simple feat. Let's recall that Stafford was on pace for a 5,000-yard, 38-touchdown season in 2019 before he was sidelined by a back injury. Jones has averaged 6.8 targets per game in his four seasons with the Lions, and there's no reason to think he won't see similar volume in the year ahead.
Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City Chiefs, ADP 127.3
It's not easy to find high-ceiling players tied to upper-tier offenses available outside the top 100-or-so picks, but Hardman is one of the few. As everyone knows, he's an absolute burner (4.3 speed) who scored six times on 26 receptions last season, averaging 20.7 yards per catch. It's widely expected that Hardman's receiving role will grow this season. Even if he's third or fourth in KC's receiving hierarchy, he has a shot at a huge year. Life is generally good in an offense that averages 30-plus points per game, with a wizard behind center. Stuff like this is almost unfair:
THIS MAHOMES JUMP PASS 😱 And Mecole Hardman outruns EVERYONE 💨@PatrickMahomes @MecoleHardman4 #KCvsTEN
📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app
Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/414bcK9I5b pic.twitter.com/7YJQYiaqw6
— NFL (@NFL) November 10, 2019
DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles, ADP 131.1
We can toss rookie receiver Jalen Reagor (ADP 126.6) into this conversation, too, because he and D-Jax are likely to open the season as Philly's top two wideouts. Jackson, of course, is one of the most explosive vertical threats of any era. If you're a believer in Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense, then, by extension, you should also have high expectations for this team's receivers. Alshon Jeffery is returning from a significant foot injury and without a clear recovery timetable. If Jackson can remain healthy, the show belongs to him, Zach Ertz, Reagor, and Miles Sanders.
Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets, ADP 131.7
Yup, just continuing my annual tradition of predicting a breakout year from Crowder. There's a 90-catch season out there for him somewhere — perhaps not in our reality, but somewhere. Crowder is basically the only wideout on this team who has a history with Sam Darnold, which has to count for something in a season like 2020. If things break right, he can see 140 targets. I will never not draft him. (Sigh.)
Zack Moss, RB, Buffalo Bills, ADP 128.5
We've already talked up Moss here and here and here and elsewhere, so there was never really any doubt he would appear on this list, too. It's not all that difficult to formulate an argument to draft Moss ahead of Devin Singletary, who typically flies off the board 75 picks earlier. Moss is a decent bet to take over the workload that went to Frank Gore last season, which involved a whopping 18 carries inside the 10-yard line (compared to three for Singletary). He's also likely to be the most productive receiving option in Buffalo's backfield; Moss hauled in 28 balls for 388 yards for Utah last year. He's a priority target for me, well ahead of his average draft position.
Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots, ADP 132.9
Harris was barely a rumor as a rookie, but he has a clear path to a starting role for New England in opening week. Sony Michel remains in rehab-mode, recovering from foot surgery, and he's coming off an inefficient, unimpressive season (3.7 YPC). Harris is a yards-after-contact specialist who was hugely productive at Alabama, gaining over 1,000 scrimmage yards in each of his final three seasons, averaging 6.6 yards per touch. He's more than simply an insurance policy for Michel drafters.
Eric Ebron, TE, Pittsburgh Stetelers, ADP 130.9
Folks, it is my duty to inform you that various reporters covering the Steelers indeed believe Ebron can be a serious factor in 2020. It's not impossible. Ebron is not unusually skilled at catching things, which is, of course, a problem. But he does have a monster fantasy season on his resume (14 TDs in 2018), so we don't have to guess at his potential — we saw it in Indianapolis, and it's pretty great.
It should also be noted that the biggest fantasy supporter of Eric Ebron is, in fact, Ebron himself:
i play fantasy and I promise u i’m taking myself before 85% of this list 😂 maybe 95%. https://t.co/OWfTgGH19e
— Eric Ebron (@Ebron85) July 27, 2020
So that's fun. There's little question that if Pittsburgh's offense approaches its upside in the season ahead, Ebron can absolutely return to fantasy relevance.
Blake Jarwin, TE, Dallas Cowboys, ADP 132.0
You shouldn't need much convincing with this one, honestly. Last season, Jarwin and Jason Witten combined for 124 targets. This year, with Witten no longer in the picture, Jarwin won't lack for opportunities. Randall Cobb has relocated, too, so plenty of targets are up for grabs in Dallas. This team's offense has a chance to be monstrously productive, giving Jarwin an obvious shot at a top-ten positional finish. That's a decent return on a 12th-round fantasy pick.